Smash's Season 2 Premiere: NBC's Musical Drama, Take Two

Smash S02E01/S02E02: "On Broadway"/"The Fallout"

Hi! I am the one critic on Earth who loved the first season of Smash. When I heard it was getting a major re-tooling for its midseason return, I was a little dismayed. Would it lose the elements I love about it? The Fame-esque/restrained Chorus Line rehearsals, the street shots of the city that feel so authentically New York, the thrill of show time from backstage?

Glory be, the new showrunner (Gossip Girl’s Josh Safran) kept all those elements, and tipped out of the canoe some of the dead weight that bogged down Season 1. Namely:

1. Ding dong, Frank is gone! The torturous marriage of Julia and Frank looks to be completely, fabulously dissolved.

2. NO LEO. Easily the most hated character besides Ellis the Scheming Henchman, Julia’s 16-going-on-7 son was nowhere to be found in the premiere or Season 2 promos.

3. NO ELLIS! The mustache-twirling villain-without-a-cause was blissfully absent and for that we can all be thankful.

4. Derek is getting called out on being a sexual predator. His storyline last night included him questioning whether he was even attractive as six dancers filed charges of sexual harassment. A rather eloquent yoga instructor also summed him up nicely, telling Derek he woke up every day with more power than everyone he worked with, yet never respected it. And his woozy ruminations on all the girls he’d diddled led to the craziest, most neon musical number Smash has ever done. That pink-high-heels group table dance was so weird and spectacularly lit and felt like an 80’s music video in all the right ways. More of that insanity s’il vous plait.

5. Hey, there’s another hot young female star on Broadway and she’s not an asshole or a raging diva! Jennifer Hudson was remarkable and she looks stunning. What a genuine star.

6. Karen’s gotten “aged down” a little in her living arrangements and costumes, she’s no longer an engaged woman with a stodgy boyfriend (bye Dev!), she’s a hot young thing living with a gaggle of jazzy friends who love launching into a capella at the drop of a hat like a Glee + Friends.

7. Someone finally didn’t lap up Karen’s B.S. and beg for seconds. Karen ran up against the first and only character who didn’t want to take her out for a “New York Moments Montage” seconds after meeting her and wow, was it refreshing. For once when she got up and flexed the autotune glory of her pipes, the intended audience got FURIOUS at her instead of getting down on their knees and thanking the Lord for having ears.

But now I want to talk about plot elements from the Smash premiere that concern me. And Hipster Genius Barkeep is by far the most concerning. Not that I don’t secretly thrill to someone being rude to Karen (her character is just too jazzed about how she sounds—she’s Pollyanna meets Sharpay from High School Musical). But the idea of a snarky barkeep casually strolling over to a bar piano after a full shift and launching into some amazing “Jonathan Larson” song he’s written, singing with his whole heart and a full orchestra backing him up somehow, and unaware someone is listening... I had to chuckle. The ladies of Smash sure have profited from meeting men in bars! And then his writing partner/fellow barkeep pulling out his envelope of dozens of playbills that he keeps stashed under the bar fulltime for some reason... it was all a little silly. But perhaps silliest is the idea that this guy who KNOWS HE’S GOOD, THANK YOU would refuse anyone’s help launching his musical. That’s probably the biggest leap of disbelief the show asked us to make last night, that a young person in 2013 would not be savvy enough to know that you take whatever kind of help you can get in any creative field.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the conceit that Bombshell will be dueling with a younger, hipper production for Karen’s attention. And I absolutely loved Karen getting shut down by someone at long last after being rude enough to treat the room to a buzzed, top-of-her-lungs serenade. But PLEASE do not let this guy be her romantic interest. I am not buying it.

And this brings me to the thing that worries me most: I genuinely loved Derek and Karen’s complicated, sometimes-icky-but-always-chemistry-filled Season 1 relationship. Her being his muse or his dark twisted fantasy or whatever she is to him—I’m into it. I 'ship it big time. Titanic-size 'ship, for me. If we’re supposed to believe this Sandisk-toting, faux-hipster Genius Barkeep is her new romantic interest I’m going to be quite put out. Even if he’s meant just to prop up another leg of the Ivy-Derek-Karen love triangle for some sexy quadrangulation, I REALLY don’t buy Karen and Genius Barkeep as having ANY romantic chemistry. I understand the will-they-won’t-they Sam-and-Diane tension this premiere seemed aware of between Derek and Karen, but that he walked away from her so easily when the production was frozen... I sort of missed his fantasies of Karen-as-Marilyn and being a little in awe of her and protective of her. But seeing if this element will come back into play and charting the various horrible heartbreaks of Ivy and waiting for my Jaren moments is what’s going to keep me returning to watch for the rest of the season.


QUESTIONS:


– Genius Barkeep: What is his problem!?

– Jennifer Hudson's character: Will she become a threat or stay a friend to Karen?

– Did Julia’s couch-meld breakdown cut too close to home?

– Are you glad Frank and Leo got the old heave-ho?

– Karen and Derek: Headed for romance or will they be “Sam and Diane’d” for all time?

– The show's new direction: Where do you think the season is headed and will it keep you watching?

Comments (30)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Plus, it's not good to mix business with pleasure..leisure can take over to much of them..but then again..what's so bad about bromance romance or sexy lip kissing..this show is great and needs to keep with added suspense..! I will kiss Megan Hilton & Kathrin McPhee @ the same tyme..They r hott and need to keep switching roles..I would kiss Dereck once to prove nothing, but Genius..? Yea that's Genius BRO! ;) p. ;;Spring Break in the HOUSE -musiq, rave love*plur&Respect,,culture,,fashion show..Cruella del vill shall take over parliament and justices of Bombshell..Hell Yea! Can't wait! Bombshell for everyone,but hey @ least they grub, snub and food and wine and development..$mash is a $mash with a Blast! Love it! ;)p
Reply
Flag
Genius Barkeep is adorable yet Nucking Futz,,what ever his problem is, its deep within his aora..I believe he could admit what we've all been waiting for..his bromance for his partner in crime and songwriting partner..eh ehh anyone?? Lol..well I think Karen needs to test the waters but not swim deep with genius.. He will realize he is the dominate force on his deeper bromance romance with an unsuspecting character...Dereck perhaps..a new twist plot..? And sweet Megan Hilty will conseed in becoming a very new Maryln..happier than ever being free to choose her stance and position in the world now..screw what anyone else says..C'esr LA vie!!! ;)p
Reply
Flag
Season 1 was great but this season has something new to keep people hooked and i apreciate tem for strring the pot and creating posibly a new musical to vie for the attention of derek and karen, might be interesting
1
Reply
Flag
Yeah, that GB was super annoying, unrealistic and his head looks too big for his haircut. I think he needs his side burns. His haircut makes him an eyesore!

Do NOT like the Karen/Derek "chemistry" and I felt so bad for Ivy when Derek horribly dismissed her like that! H8 him too! Although the 80's number was fun, the draw to this show for me is the original music. I don't like when they just do cheesy covers. That's what Glee is for.

I think they are trying to make GB a potential love interest for Karen. I could care less though because I don't like either of them. He was okay in the first hour and I saw potential in the show in bringing in a male character getting some vocal attention but then they ruined it by making him a ridiculous azzhole. Once they fix that I guess he'll be okay. I still won't like Karen but ah well.

I am happy about the character cuts. They were MUCH needed! Good riddance to them all!
1
Reply
Flag
I just can't stand Ivy. She did slept with Karen's fiancé, slept with Derek to get the part, manipulates everyone by playing the 'overdose card' over and over. Also the 'I've been to long on this bussines so I deserve it more than anyone else' is pretty stupid of her. Love Megan Hitly. I think her charactes is supposed to be annoying and she plays it so well. In interviews she always seems so sweet so it makes me think of how great of an actress she is. Still hate Ivy though.
3
Reply
Flag
They made some good changes for this season except they had one major oversight: should have minimized scenes with McPhee. Hilty is a far better actor and singer and they don't give her enough airtime. It will be hard to watch rest of season if McPhee's robotic character continues to take up the lion's share of the plot lines.
8
Reply
Flag
AGREED! I have a little girl crush on Hitly so I am a little biased but still. I was just happy that she got to sing even if she was second choice (which Karen felt she needed to rub in! H8 her!).

2
Reply
Flag
A scene with Ellis getting his comeuppance -- up to and including being drawn and quartered in the middle of 42nd Street -- was what I was most hoping to see. It's too bad that they didn't give us that cathartic moment.
Reply
Flag
The premiere of season 2 was pretty boring to me. I loved season 1. Most the song were catchy. But all the songs from this episode (the original ones) were not as good as in the Pilot. The new characters that stood out to me were Karen's new roommate and the snarky barkeep's friend. I feel sympathetic to him. And yes I agree with Lily, where did the chemistry between Karen and Derek go?
1
Reply
Flag
Bravo Lily in standing up for this show. I also loved season 1. There certainly were enough jarring elements for critics to sink their teeth into but I've been disappointed at the lack of acclaim the show's received. And I'm missing Ellis, I never had a problem with him, I found him an interesting and textured villain. Leo and Frank I won't miss, Dev is a shame as even though his chauvinism was off-putting if he'd matured a little I'd have liked him to stick around. Karen will always be problematic and I'll get angry if she Ivy doesn't maintain her prominent role throughout the season. I hope you'll continue covering the show and maybe bring back the captions?

As for the episode(s), I didn't love them. It seems the wind has gone out of the sails a little, there's less plot marching forward and more tedious introspection. I fully blame the new showrunner, the change certainly seems a little more CWy. There's little point in eliminating the allegedly weaker aspects of the show if you can't maintain or improve upon its strengths. Even the score sounded a lot cheesier (too cutesy followed by too melodramatic) than usual. Some of the songs weren't great, especially Would I Lie to You, but I was liberated by Ivy's outstanding number at the end and it gave me hope for things to come. So I liked the episodes but didn't love them.

As for the bartender, he's hot-headed and immature. Not only are his actions totally understandable they're also not unexpected from someone is his position (putting the faux orchestra aside). He has an incredible amount of self-confidence, so he doesn't believe he needs help succeeding, he obviously believes his material is good enough to get results without having contacts. As I said it's no stretch that someone in his position would be full of confidence and pride. I have no issues with him, and although Karen and Derek have nice chemistry that only really comes to life when they're fully in work mode. There'll be little value in them as a couple until they get back to furiously working on a play. So she may as well hang out with the bartender for a while. Plus if Dev was not much of a chemistry-blocker in Season 1 then bartender will unlikely be one in Season 2.
More+
1
Reply
Flag
thank God they made a clean break with Dev and Ellis.. and Julia's son.. and sort of her husband. couldn't stand any of them. the new guy who wrote the songs that Karen was obsessing over is kind of a douche so far so I'm not sure how I'll feel about him yet. apart from that, good episode.
1
Reply
Flag
I love Derek. He and Ivy are the most dimensional and real characters on the show. And Anjelica Huston's character as well, I enjoy her. But I've never really bought his & Karen's relationship and don't really see the chemistry. I can understand him developing a fascination with her, being the girl that turned him down (although as we learned, she wasn't the first) or for whatever reason he developed it, but being his muse was pushing it. Nor do I buy the fact that they would cast Karen over Ivy for Marilyn. Ivy has the look, the talent and the experience while Karen has a good voice but not the charisma to pull it off. Whether that's due to Katharine McPhee's stilted performance, the general insufferableness of the character or just the awesomeness that is Megan Hilty I don't know but it just doesn't ring true for me. That being said, I still enjoy the show for what it is and some of the song performances have been outstanding.
3
Reply
Flag
"Karen (her character is just too jazzed about how she sounds—she's Pollyanna meets Sharpay from High School Musical)." + "autotune glory of her pipes" yes!!
4
Reply
Flag
I am so over Katherine McPhee and the addition of another Idol cast member was just too much for me to stomach. I mean seriously, they have honest to god Broadway stars on the show who can act and sing and act while singing (gasp!). I agree that it was nice for the barkeep to not fall all over himself, but insane for his writing partner to put up with her uppity attitude and belief that she has an opinion that matters or a brain in her head. He was right when he said she hadn't made it. She hasn't even WORKED ON BROADWAY! Not in a chorus, not in a touring cast, not anywhere. I'm not sure being Derek's phychosis-inducing muse is a) that well known in public or industry circles or b) that helpful given he can't even get a mostly done musical off the ground. Plus, you know he is supposed to be a love interest. She is a princess and unless they knock her down down down, she is always gonna be insufferable.

I'm going to keep watching and hoping it gets better because I can fast forward the stupid pop-song and pushup bra crap for the 3-minute real song with Megan Hilty and the barkeep singing. But honestly, they needed to commit to Broadway and not keep trying to be an old-person Glee wannabe. Hasn't anyone told them Glee sucks now anyway?
More+
8
Reply
Flag
"She is a princess and unless they knock her down down down, she is always gonna be insufferable.

I'm going to keep watching and hoping it gets better because I can fast forward the stupid pop-song and pushup bra crap for the 3-minute real song with Megan Hilty and the barkeep singing. " AGREED
4
Reply
Flag
I wish every scene had Derek. He is the most authentic and entertaining character in the whole series. His charm, his humor,his honesty, his gorgeous face - love, love, love! Love the chemistry between Derek and Karen more than any other "relationship" he has had on the show. I agree about Karen's character. Her slack jawed expressions and vacant acting style drive me crazy. Love the new guys voice, enjoyed most of the new songs, don't miss any of the characters that are missing and want more Derek!
7
Reply
Flag
I loved that little moment, when the drunk Derek asked the barkeep "If you have something somebody wants, does that mean you can't sleep with them?". That's the great hypocrisy and I totally bought his surprise that some of the dancers were alleging sexual harassment. Sure, Derek uses the power that he has to seduce women, but they agree to that. They practically throw themselves at him. I mean, Karen didn't sleep with him and she still got to be his muse in the end, or maybe because of that.
And yes, I'm a total Karen-Derek shipper. I absolutely love their chemistry. But I think it's still longs ways from happening.
Onto your questions:
-Genius Barkeep irked me. Sure, putting Karen in front of a character that doesn't instantly fall in love with her is cool and all that. But he WAS unreasonable and his friend/writing partner was quite right to point that out.
-I think she'll be Karen's friend until Karen becomes a threat to her. Protect the work, right?
-Blah. Pathetic. I was more and more tired of Julia since the series pilot. Getting rid of the family and scarves might help, though.
-Oh yea. Good riddance.
-I don't think I can see the new direction exactly just yes, but I'm hopeful. I liked the previous season (despite its obvious problems), but I have a good feeling about the second one.
More+
1
Reply
Flag
I too bought Derek's surprise, but I disagree that he intentionally used his power to coerce intimacies - I think he's disillusioned in that he fully believes he's a "lady's man", especially after seeing his fallen face when he realized the truth. And another disagreement LOL, not all workers throw themselves at boss-men, so the ones that didn't shouldn't be pursued by the boss. Blatant hussies throwing themselves at the boss, I have no problem with them hooking up, as long as bossman was smart enough to make sure there were witnesses to the hussies initiating things. Yea, hussies will get favored in the beginings, but most don't make it very long.

Julia, ok we agree there ^_^
1
Reply
Flag
Come on Lily, as i recall you loved Ivy how can you not mention her AMAZING performence in the second episode she was unbelievable and great just like a STAR
3
Reply
Flag
First off, I cannot believe you "loved" the first season of SMASH. It was such a disappointment!

Anyways, onto Season 2: I thought these two episodes were just OK. Am I the only one who seriously dislikes Katharine McPhee/Karen? Seriously, the best acting she can do is manage "mild surprise". And don't even get me started on the new hipster barkeep....just awful.

In terms of the music, the last Bombshell song and all the Jennifer Hudson songs were awesome, but that "Would I Lie to You" scene was painful. I almost closed my eyes until it was over, it was so bad. Who thought it made sense to include that? What was the point? Dumb, dumb, dumb.

I'm not feeling super optimistic about the new direction. It seems a lot like the old one, and that's definitely not a good thing.
6
Reply
Flag
"Am I the only one who seriously dislikes Katharine McPhee/Karen?" no but i am worried that the show seriously overestimates how much we are rooting for her
7
Reply
Flag
I'm glad to see I'm not the only one shipping Karen and Derek. Honestly, I know Derek's supposed to be this philandering egotistical director, but whenever he speaks in that accent and makes the dreamy eyes he does when Karen's around, I cannot get enough of him. Also, loved the scene where he leaned in to kiss Ivy and she snapped out of it and said "Not gonna happen" - good for you, girl!
3
Reply
Flag
What!? NO CAPTIONING?! WHY?
3
Reply
Flag
I HATED the first episode. We are suppose to root for Karen, right? We are suppose to hope she gets the parts, this sweet girl from wherever, right? Well I can't. I can't root for such an awful character; she's spoilt, nasty, pretentious, self-centered, has a holier-than-thou attitude and we are suppose to root for this girl?! No. NO. NO!

The writers are trying so hard to make Karen the star when Ivy (and now miss J-Hud) are naturally the stars. Two actresses playing characters who you immediately warm to, root for and like.

I'm starting to think the actress might be just as much a problem as the character of Karen...

I could only just force myself into watching the first episode all the way through, there is no way I'll be forcing myself through episode 2.
5
Reply
Flag
Seriously it is so hard to take the character of Karen - it brings the whole show down
5
Reply
Flag
Wish you'd written more about Ivy. She is by far my favorite character on the show. Karen's Pollyanna ways are fun, and unfortunately the new showrunners are sticking with her as the "main" character, but I sure do hope we get more scenes like we got at the end of the second episode. Where Eileen, Derek, Julia, Tom and Ivy all got together to show that room of people WHY their musical is amazing. I understand the character of Karen, I just wish she wasn't constantly put on a pedistal and that Ivy's character would be fleshed out better (not the insane "villain" she was turned into at the end of the first season).

For me the appeal of this show has always been the musical aspect. The time and energy it takes to put a show on Broadway is portrayed beautifully. I am sure Derek and Karen and that new dude are interesting, but I am hella excited that a new show is going to be introduced. Though my mantra will always be more Ivy and for the love of my ears, more Megan Hilty singing!!! So on that note I say, bring on season 2!!

p.s. Hope you've listened to MH's new single. It is awesome.
More+
6
Reply
Flag
I'm with you. Ivy is Marilyn. Karen is boring and too skinny. Ivy singing the white piano reduced me to a blob.
8
Reply
Flag
I'm just bummed the premiere had low ratings... we can complain all we want about the downs of the show, but we'll no longer have the ups if we don't enjoy them now.
2
Reply
Flag
Low ratings is an understatement, the show crashed and burned miserably. It opened with a series low 1.1 adults 18-49 rating down a staggering 71 percent from a 3.8 for the series premiere on February 6, 2012 (following The Voice) and down 39 percent from a 1.8 for the first season finale on May 14.
1
Reply
Flag
Jeremy Jordan is just lovely! I think he was so talented on Broadway in Newsies and Bonnie & Clyde. So excited to see him in this!
2
Reply
Flag

Like TV.com on Facebook